Making the scene with Boozer and Hamilton in 12-13


Oct 2

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Maybe this 2012-13 Bulls season, or at least the part until and whether Derrick Rose can return to play, will and should be known as “Booz and Rip unchained.”

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” Carlos Boozer said. “I did a lot of things this summer. I’ve got a lot to show.”

Added Richard Hamilton: “I probably have to do more with Derrick out. Derrick is special. He makes everyone’ job so much easier. Now everyone has to pick it up more.”

Carlos BoozerIn some respects, Boozer, the big free agent for the Bulls from the class of 2010, and Hamilton, the free agent acquisition for the missing two guard position from last year, were the disappointments for the Bulls.

Boozer was an All-Star, a two-time Olympic team member, all-NBA and supposedly the long sought 20/10 post man. Hamilton was the leading scorer on the championship Detroit Pistons, a three-time All-Star and former league leading three point shooter. They were to be the star figures to complement Rose and offset the Miami Big Three.

It didn’t quite work out that way, obviously, and there was much whispering—and much not so quietly—about whether the Bulls had made mistakes.

And they had to suffer in silence.

Because when you come to a team with a young star, a league Most Valuable Player, and when you’d been that “Man” before, well, it’s not that easy a transition. At their ages, they’ve had the individual accolades. They want to win. But they have to do so by fitting in, which wasn’t always easy for either for Boozer or Hamilton.

It’s not something you complain about. And it wasn’t something Boozer or Hamilton did.

But it seemed clear to those who had seen them for years that both had backed off some to accommodate Rose’s game. And even though Rose isn’t the kind of star to be selfish and take away from his teammates, there still is an awkward period for a new player in adjusting to anyone with that kind of transcendent talent.

Neither Boozer nor Hamilton are glad Rose is out because they know they cannot be winners without him. But they can be two of the big missing pieces because Rose is out. Both can score, have scored and have led their teams in scoring. Now they’ll be asked to do that again until Rose returns.

How are the Bulls going to score without Rose?

Perhaps with a shot of Booz and a bit of Rip.

“I’d been the No. 1 guy in Detroit for 10 years,” said Hamilton without rancor or resentment. “Booz, the same in Utah. But you are feeling your way all day (when coming to a new team) You’re learning new stuff, a system, players. You’ve got to pick and choose. You don’t want to come into a situation and try to be the conductor of the train when everything is moving smoothly. I’ve seen so many guys come in and try to do that. It doesn’t work. You come in to fit in, do what the team needs you to provide.”

For Hamilton, he never truly got the chance as he sustained early and frequent injuries in a season he feared for just those reasons. As a result, no one ever saw the player he could be. Yes, he’s 34. But that’s not old for a guard anymore, and few players keep themselves in better shape than Hamilton.

“People don’t understand,” Hamilton was saying during media day Monday. “The (lockout, 66-game) schedule was insane. And we had this horrible start (with the most games the first month). I told Thibs when I saw the schedule for this season I couldn’t believe it, all the days off, practice time. I knew last year was going to be some bull stuff. Way too many games. We should have played 50.

“It’s going to be different this year,” Hamilton said. “We added some good pieces, guys who know how to play. So I don’t think it will take long to adjust, guys who have been starters like Ronnie (Brewer), C.J. (Watson), Kyle (Korver) were. But when I saw that schedule last year I knew there were going to be a lot of injuries.”

It hit Hamilton four games into the season and he truly never recovered, missing eight games, then 13, and then 14 before looking good for the playoffs, which ended way too suddenly. Hamilton says he’s healthy and strong and looking forward to a regular season.

Similarly with Boozer.

He came in 2010 with big expectations, but suffered a broken hand a few days into training camp. It was a few months before he was right again, though Rose had taken over and was on his way to being the league MVP.

So Boozer in his two seasons with the Bulls averaged the fewest minutes per game since his rookie season in Cleveland. His field goal attempts fell below 1,000 with the Bulls after exceeding 1,000 in his last three healthy seasons with the Jazz.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau Tuesday complimented both Boozer and Hamilton for their conditioning and physical shape after the first session of team practices.

“I thought Booz and Rip were very good,” Thibodeau said. “Much better shape than a year ago. They have good chemistry and play off each other well.”

With the Bulls out of the playoffs before the end of April, Boozer had plenty of time to return to his home in Miami to hear too much about the Heat. He said it was further motivation.

“I’ve been in the gym all summer,” he said. “I lost about 10 solid pounds, added a little quickness, energy. I think it will be a big year. A lot of responsibility has shifted to myself, Luol, Jo, Taj, Rip. There’s an opportunity to step up and I’m looking forward to the opportunity, to more responsibility.”

It’s not like anyone is relishing Rose’s absence. But it had to be a subtle process coming to the team, especially with Boozer missing so much of his first season with the preseason injury.

“You know me,” he says. “I don’t care if I score 30 or 10. I want to win. But there was a lot of fitting in the first two years. It was different. Usually when we have Derrick and the shot clock gets down to six or seven we’re are searching him out to give him the ball because he always makes something happen. This year we’ll run a few more pick and rolls, swinging the ball, using eachother a little bit more until we get him back. I am looking forward to this challenge.”

Thibodeau acknowledged without being specific that Boozer will be a vital component. Yes, Taj Gibson is working in the post now. But that is new to him. Like him or not, Boozer is an established post player.

“Even last year, Boozer averaged 15 points and shot a great (field goal) percentage, 53 percent,” noted Thibodeau. “We have to be inside/out. The ball has to go into the post. Carlos can score a number of different ways. He’s comfortable in the post, can shoot 15, 17 feet, the jumper, the pass and the open seams. And Rip knows where the seams are.”

They’re going to get their chances this season, at least early. And they could provide a big part of the answer to all that missing scoring. Or at least it seems that way.

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